Third space revolt

Louis-Vuitton-Marina-Bay-Singapore-external-signage-115It’s a retail revolution and our mouths and stomachs are driving the rebellion. The new big thing internationally is the rise of instore hospitality, creating a community or having a ‘third space.’

Offering something other than your product, such as coffee and piece of cake, is the new driver of footfall and a sure way to increase dwell time instore. We all know the longer the customer settles in your space, the greater the opportunity to strike a genuine relationship between customer and brand and the likelihood of purchase far greater.

Think about it, we are now at ease with researching and buying online so retailers need to fight harder than ever to lure consumers off their gadgets and into store.

We also live in an experience-driven economy where people now place more value on things they do than the things they buy (hallelujah!). We spend serious amounts of cash on travel, eating out, leisure, and cultural activities, so it makes sense that brands are looking to deliver more immersive, spectacular and memorable experiences to grab the attention of distracted consumers.

Starbucks pioneered the concept of third space back in the day. It saw the changing pattern of life whereby people’s first and second space of home and work (respectively), was redefined. We’re no longer working at the office from 9am to 5pm (at least many of us aren’t) and we’ve almost become a generation of work nomads facilitated by evolving technology.

Basically, the third space should slot in somewhere in between the first and second. It has no particular purpose, but there is a crossover between work, play, office, and home.

Starbucks nailed it internationally (obviously not in NZ) because it created a space which represents a ticket to hang, meet friends, and get some work done. It’s a warm, welcoming space to make everyone feel at home.

Moving on from Starbucks, the concept has gone a lot deeper and the best retailers are now incorporating events, workshops, shows, and even cinema screenings to turn their stores into genuine destinations with plenty of reasons to revisit.

Take the Louis Vuitton flagship store in Singapore. It’s complete with underwater tunnels, bookstores, and art exhibitions. Burberry in London has merged technology with fashion whereby customers can view bespoke multi-media content and catwalks on film, and Virgin mobile in South Africa has lounge areas, mobile phone training, wi-fi, coffee, and food.

One of my favourites is Rapha. This British cycling brand don’t have stores, they have Cycling Clubs. Of course they sell Rapha products, but they are known as a place that celebrates the culture of road cycling, with each club hosting a café, serving coffee and food and where cycling fans can mingle and watch racing events screened in store. Genius!

I’ve mentioned it in a previous column, but locally, Barkers are offering shoppers coffee, wet shaves, and haircuts, and other stores such as Lululemon converts into a yoga room.

My absolute pick of the bunch in New Zealand is a hair salon in Birkenhead called Biba. A small, independent salon is leading the charge by thinking outside the square and transforms into a yoga and well being space after hours.


Some of the key components of a third space are;

  • The redesign of spaces so they’re more visually appealing and comfortable
  • Provide better amenities like free wi-fi or charging stations
  • Offer services or space to the local community (eg. free yoga, meeting spaces)
  • Make customer service more personalised and specialised
  • Create stores that are attractions and experiences in themselves


The aim of the third space is to no longer rack up as many transactions as possible. Rather, the physical shop is a critical component to accompany the online offering – providing a unique way to experience the brand.

Lizzi Hines is MD of Spaceworks Design Group, and can be contacted on 0800 2 FIT OUT. Click here for more information on Pop Up Now or phone 0800 POP UPS.

Rapha Cafe, London

Rapha Cafe, London


Rapha, London

Louis Vuitton, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Louis Vuitton, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore


Louis Vuitton, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore


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